Spring Bassin’ the Midwest: Tactics for March

Bass are America’s favorite fish, and spring is the preferred season to chase them. Since I was 27 I’ve been a full-time multi- species fishing pro, outdoors sports business owner, media member and have been blessed to spend a tremendous amount of my life on the water. Along with many of my staff guides, I’ve caught hundreds of species. But we always look forward most to guiding springtime-bass fishing trips across the Midwest. Yes, we spend most of the time on our home lakes, but we venture to other ones too. After all these years, the excitement of this great sport in this part of the country never fades.

Exciting fishing
Bass are hard-hitting and hard-fighting fish; they’ll hammer a lure like a runaway freight train, strip line from a reel’s drag, and bulldog for the depths one second then rush straight up to leap high into the air the next. They can be challenging to find and coax into striking and land. Largemouths are also the biggest, and qualify as “big game.” These tackle giant prey and huge lures with savage fury. Smallmouths are warriors too, and can pull harder than most freshwater fish, and the spotted bass are abundant, tough customers that can bend a rod.

In spring, many tactics work well to take these fish, but this is a timeframe when bassin’s most exciting methods produce well. Topwaters, spinnerbaits, swim jigs and shallow cranks all produce, allowing anglers to cover a lot of water and search out aggressive fish. Seeing the bass hammer these lures at or near the surface gets our clients get excited.

Location aspects
On most waters, there will always be fish in the shallows. Typically, shallow bass tend to be more active and are more catchable than deeper ones. And as long as these big fish are present, we’ll always target the shallows first, moving to mid- depth areas or deeper water if we need to. Thankfully, for the majority of the spring period, good populations and the majority of bass in a system can be found in shallower water or right next to it. The beasts here rush up to our offerings right before our very eyes and strikes are often vicious and unforgiving.

During the spawn, some bass can be taken off of open beds and in areas without cover. But not all bass spawn at the same time, and fish in pre- or post-spawn are likely to be close by, and more catchable, especially with power tactics. Males spend much more time fanning the beds and protecting them while the bigger females only move onto the beds for a short while to procreate. Throughout much of the season, the larger female bass will use shallow or mid-depth cover that rises up to the surface along initial breaks that separate the shallows from the depths. They will go here before and during their short forays onto their beds. Standing timber, stumps, laydowns, brush piles, broken rock, boulders, ledges, riprap, weeds, grass beds and patches will all hold big bass.

Get out there
Depending on how far north or south you fish, the peak of springtime bass angling is either upon you, or it’s not far off. It’s a special, thrilling time to hit the water in search of these fish. We still have a few dates left open here and there for guided trips and lodging during our seasonal peaks at the Midwest’s “best bass waters.” You’ve got to love spring bassin’ in the Midwest, as it’s as much a part of the outdoors as hunting and camping.